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Calvin and Calvinism » Blog Archive » George Payne (1781-1848) on the Extent of the Atonement

George Payne (1781-1848) on the Extent of the Atonement

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?






I NEED not say that no point of Scripture doctrine has given rise to more disputes than the subject on the consideration of which we are about to enter. On the one hand, it has been asserted, that the love of God in the gift of his Son had for its objects only the elect, that Christ gave himself for them exclusively,–that in no sense has he made atonement for others; and that, consequently, none but the elect either will or can partake of those spiritual and everlasting blessings which How from what he has done. On the other hand, it is contended, that God loved the whole world,–that Christ made an atonement for the whole world; and that if any are not saved by him, it is because they do not comply with the conditions on which the actual enjoyment of the blessings purchased by him for all men is suspended. Now, if it were not almost presumption to express such an opinion in reference to a point on which men of the greatest talents and learning, and, I may add, piety too, are to be found in a hostile attitude, I should say, that things have been advanced by both parties in the controversy which it will be difficult to reconcile with the word of God. It is not uncommon in controversy, for both of the parties engaged, regarding each other’s sentiments as dangerous, to recede in some measure from the doctrine of Scripture, in their mutual desire to avoid what they regard as contrary to it. They fix their thoughts too exclusively upon the conceived error; their minds are thus partially withdrawn from the standard of truth; and they depart in some degree, by almost necessary consequence, from the truth itself. The remarks which I have to make upon this subject will perhaps be best presented in the form of a series of propositions, beginning with those which are less disputable, and proceeding to others which will serve more fully to exhibit the doctrine of Scripture in reference to it. .

1st. The sacred writers invite all men to come to Christ, and to secure, by that act, those blessings which flow to sinners through the channel of his atonement. In the support of this proposition I need not enlarge. Isa. lv. 1, “Ho, every one that thirsts, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, ‘come, buy wine and milk . without money and without price.” “Come unto me,” said our Lord, “all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” ” Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in nowise cast out.” “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that hears say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of” life freely.” (Rev. xxii. 17.) The attempts of certain individuals to show that these are not indiscriminate invitations–that they are addressed to certain characters, or to individuals in certain states of mind, exclusively, and so afford no warrant to others to make application to the Savior for the blessings of redemption, are so directly opposed to every just principle of interpretation, that I do not feel called upon to spend one moment of time in exhibiting their fallacy. It is only necessary to say, that the language is in exact agreement with the manner in which indefinite, unlimited invitations, to become possessed of any blessing, are, in the every day intercourse of life, addressed to men; all who choose, or will, may go and receive it.

2nd. A refusal to go to Christ, and so to receive the blessings of his salvation, is the ground upon which censure is passed upon sinners now, and it will constitute the foundation, or cause, of their condemnation hereafter. John iii. 18, “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the only begotten son of God:” ver. 26, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” In harmony with these general statements, We find our Lord strongly censuring the Jews for not believing on him, (John v. 89. 43: vide also chapter xv. 22. 24),–upbraiding the cities where most of his mighty works were done, (Matt. xi. 20. 24,)–weeping over Jerusalem, (Matt. xxiii. 37,) and saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not I behold your house is left unto you desolate.” The same conduct on the part of sinner will constitute the ground of condemnation hereafter. This assertion assumes that all will not be ultimately saved by Christ,–a fact of important practical bearing upon our subsequent remarks, and supported by the testimony, of experience and Scripture. How often do we see men terminating a course of rebellion against God in a manner worthy of the flagitiousness of their lives,–dying as the fool dies,–entering with the utmost degree of unconcern into the presence of Him who has declared that he will render unto all men according to their works! And, if we believe the testimony of Scripture, we can entertain no hope in reference to their eternal state. They must be ” cast into hell, with all the nations that forget God;” and the cause of their destruction will prove to be their rejection of offered mercy. John iii. 19, “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” In harmony with this declaration of our Lord, the apostle assures us, (2 Thess. i. 7. 9), that, at the last day, “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with hi. mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” From these propositions, it seems to me to follow as a necessary consequence, and which I state as the

3rd Proposition, That while, on the one hand, the Savior cannot have intended to secure the salvation of all men by the act of offering up himself a sacrifice for sin,–yet that that sacrifice must, on the other hand, have been in itself adequate to the salvation of all men, so as to become a suitable foundation for the general and unlimited calls of the gospel. There is a broad line of distinction between the sufficiency of the atonement of Christ, and its efficiency; or rather, as I would say, the sovereign purpose of the sacred Three in reference to its efficiency; i.e., in reference to the exertion of that holy influence upon the minds of men which secures to them the enjoyment of the blessings which flow through the channel of the atonement. It may be true (whether it is so, or not, we shall inquire presently,–my present object is merely to illustrate the difference between the two things) that Jehovah did not intend to put forth that influence which would render the atonement the means of securing the salvation of all men; though, as it was to become the basis of moral government, it was essential that it should be one of infinite worth, and so in itself adequate to the salvation of all men. This I have long regarded as the true state of the case. I cannot think that the intention of God in reference to the application of the atonement (as we call it, perhaps not very correctly, though the language is well enough understood) was general, nor that the sufficiency of the atonementits inherent power, worth, adequacy, &c., was limited, or particular.

Before we can return an enlightened, or even a rational, answer to the question, “Did Christ die for all men, or for some men only?” we must carefully inquire into its meaning–a business attended with more difficulty than some individuals imagine. If it be meant to inquire whether Christ died instead of some men, or instead of all men, it will be still necessary (though the question is now less ambiguous) more fully to define the phraseology; for, on the one hand, he did not so die instead of any, as that they shall be saved without repentance and faith; and, on the other hand, he so died instead of all men, as that all men may be saved on their faith and repentance.

If, again, it be meant to inquire whether Christ died with a design to save some men, or all men, it is possible that even this question might be regarded by some persons as an ambiguous one. To save, it might be said, may mean to lay for men a foundation of salvation, i.e., to supply them with the means of salvation;–or again, to render those means effectual to their salvation: and, accordingly, the answer to the question must vary, as one or other of these senses is attached to the words. If the question be, “Did Christ die with the design of laying a foundation of salvation for all men, or for some men?” I answer, that, all this sense, he died for all men. “If the question be, “Did he die with the design of rendering these means effectual to the salvation of all men, or of some men?” I answer, that, in this sense, he died for some men only.

I believe in the unlimited, universal, infinite sufficiency of the atonement of Christ–I believe that it was the intention of God, as the moral governor, in giving his Son as a sacrifice for sin, (and we must not forget that, while men remain rational beings, it is impossible for God to divest himself of the character of moral governor, even under a dispensation of grace), to provide a remedy commensurate with the disease. I believe, on the other hand, in the limited application of the atonement. I believe that it was the intention of God, as a Sovereign, to render that remedy effectual, by special and sovereign influence, in the case of certain individuals only who are affected with the general disease, so that the intention of God, as a sovereign, and as a Ruler, in reference to the atonement, is different, the one being general, the other particular.

The truth of the preceding remarks, which have been so far merely expository, it will be necessary to establish. The two points to be supported are the following:–that God, in giving his Son to be a sacrifice for sin, designed, as a moral governor, to provide, and that he actually did provide a remedy co-extensive with the disease of men;–but that, as a Sovereign, having a right to dispense his favors as it seems good in his sight, he did not determine to exert that influence which would render the remedy effectual, save only in the case of the elect.

I. The first thing to be proved is, that the atonement is sufficient in itself for all,–that it is a general remedy, co-extensive with the evil which it was intended to remove,–setting open the door of salvation to the whole family of man.

I. I derive my confidence of this from the very nature of the atonement itself. In defining atonement, it was stated to mean that satisfaction for sin which was rendered to God as the moral governor of the world, by which every obstacle, on his part, to the pardon of sin was entirely removed. In explaining the nature of satisfaction; it was observed, that to make satisfaction for sin is to do that which restores, and will preserve, to the moral government of God, that power over its subjects, which the entrance of sin had shaken, and which its unconditional forgiveness would have entirely destroyed. Now, if this be the nature of atonement, the sacrifice of our Lord must have been in itself sufficient for the salvation of the whole world. To conceive of any limitation in reference to its own intrinsic worth or adequacy, is utterly impossible. To suppose that the death of Christ has removed the obstacles which must otherwise have prevented the salvation of some men, and not those which would have obstructed the salvation of others, is to suppose not only what is un scriptural, but what is absurd. That satisfaction which renders it consistent with the perfections of Jehovah, and with the claims and safety of his government, to bestow pardon upon one man, must of necessity render it equally consistent with his character, and bis office, to bestow pardon upon all. It does not follow from this statement that pardon will actually be bestowed upon all. Previously to the creation, there was, no obstacle resulting from want of right, or power, on the part of God, to the bestowment of reason upon all tbe animate productions of his hand yet reason was not imparted to many. There is now, in like manner, no obstacle arising out of the Divine character and government; to the eternal salvation of all men, yet the felicity of heaven will not be imparted to all. There are, doubtless, reasons for this restricted application of the atonement; but these reasons do not rest upon a limited sufficiency in the atonement itself. That there should be such a limitation in an atonement made by a Divine Savior is impossible,–considering the nature of his atonement, inconceivable. That work, on the part of the Savior, which preserves the efficiency of the law in the bestowment of pardon upon one man, must, in the very nature of the case, preserve it also in the bestowment of pardon upon all men. It is impossible, consistently, to reject these statements, and, at the same time, to retain the views in reference to the nature of the atonement which have been developed in the preceding Lectures. I express a firm conviction, growing out of six and twenty years of close and anxious thought and observation, that the notions which some have formed of the limited sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, are usually connected with the opinion, (and cannot well be otherwise than connected with it), that he delivers us from punishment by suffering the precise number of stripes which we must have endured.1 In that case, indeed, there could be no sufficiency in the atonement itself in reference to any but the elect. But if his death partook of the nature of a moral, and not a pecuniary satisfaction, then that satisfaction which was sufficient for one, must have been sufficient for all. In the language of Dwight,

If the atonement of Christ-consisted in making such amends for the disobedience of man as should place the law, government, and character of God, in such a light that he could forgive sinners of the human race without any inconsistency, then these amends, or this atonement, were all absolutely necessary, in order to render such forgiveness proper, or consistent with the law and character of God, in a single instance. The forgiveness of one sinner without these amends, would be just as much a contradiction of the declarations of law, as the forgiveness of a million. If, then, the amends actually made were such that God could consistently forgive one sinner, he might, with equal consistency and propriety, forgive any number, unless prevented by any other reason. The atonement, in other words, which was necessary for a world, was equally necessary, and in just the same manner and degree, for an individual sinner,” (Sermon 36).

The amount of Dwight’s statement is, that Christ could not, according to the phraseology of some, make a sufficient atonement for one man, without making a sufficient atonement for all men. I do not recommend the phraseology, because it seems to imply an intention, on the part of the Savior, to apply the atonement to, or to render it effectual in, the case of all men; yet the meaning intended to be conveyed is scriptural, and most important, viz., that the Saviour set open the door of mercy to all, so that all, without a second atonement, may, on their faith and repentance, be forgiven. The conceived implication of the words, “Christ made an atonement for all men,” to which I have just referred, causes many to startle at the phraseology, and is the chief ground on which I would avoid it; for, believing, as they profess to do, that, if it had been the intention of God to save all men, the atonement which his Son presented would have been sufficient in itself to secure that object, they must believe, to be self-consistent, that this atonement was, in some sense, made for all; or it would follow that some may be saved without an atonement. Strictly speaking, the atonement was not made for one man, or for all men; it was made to God for sin, i e., on account of sin. It was designed to remove those obstacles to any gracious communications from God to man; which sin had set up. There was doubtless a speciality of intention in reference to the individuals to whom the highest species of such communications should be made, but the breaking down of the barrier permitted the free access of mercy to every individual of the human family.

2. I ground my confidence that the atonement is in itself sufficient for the salvation of all men; or, in other words, a general remedy, co-extensive with the evil it was intended to remove, on the consideration that it seems impossible to vindicate the consistency and propriety of those exhortations and threatenings to which we have referred, unless this be the case. All men are invited and commanded to believe in Christ; it is promised, that all shall be saved who believe; it is threatened, that all shall be condemned who disbelieve, and condemned because they disbelieve. Now, how is it possible, let me ask, to reconcile these facts with the opinion, that there is not inherent sufficiency in the atonement to secure the blessings of salvation to all the world? How can we justify the propriety of beseeching numbers to be reconciled to God, to whom he has not been reconciled by the death of his Son;–of proffering pardon to all men, when the atonement has virtue only to secure the pardon of some?of inviting the whole family of man to the gospel feast, when there is liot a sufficiency of provisions for a part of the family? If such conduct would be mean and dishonorable on the part of man–and who would venture to say it would not?–how can we impute it to the Great Eternal? I lack words to express my astonishment that persons should be found who can give credit to the monstrous proposition, that there are actually no provisions (which must be the case if the sufficiency of the atonement is limited) for multitudes who are, at the same time, invited to partake of them, and damned for rejecting them! .

Will it be said that the atonement would have’ been sufficient for all, if God had determined that all should be saved by it, so that all may be invited to believe, inasmuch as it will be found sufficient for all who actually believe? I answer, in the

First place, That it’ is absurd to rest the sufficiency of the atonement upon the Divine purpose in reference to its application. Its tendency to sustain the efficiency of the law, even while there seemed, in the pardon of transgressors, to be a practical denial of its rectitude and goodness, does not depend upon the mere will of God; or a man might have made an ample atonement. It springs out of the reason of the case. The atonement is, indeed, efficient, i.e., it becomes the means of actual salvation to certain individuals, because Jehovah determines that it shall be so. But had it not been sufficient, independently of Divine volition, to secure the object which it was designed to effect, it could not have been rendered efficient even in the case of one individual. And if it be sufficient in itself, it may be rendered (whether such be the determination of God is another question) efficient in the case of all. But I reply,

Secondly, That, if it were not absurd to rest the sufficiency of the atonement upon the Divine purpose, with regard to its application, yet, as that is done by supposition, and as that purpose is limited, the sufficiency of the atonement is, on the principles of my opponents, limited after all. It has no inherent power, as they conceive, to secure the blessings of salvation to any, save to those on whom the Father had previously determined to bestow them. And yet all men to whom the gospel comes, and by Divine appointment it is to be preached to the whole world, are invited, and, indeed, enjoined by God to seek these blessings on the ground of the atonement–are now condemned if they seek them not, and persisting in their rejection, must bear, and on account of their rejection, the wrath of God throughout eternity!

If, to get rid of this difficulty, it should be said that no sinner knows but that Christ died for him, or does not know but that he is included in the atonement which he has made, and so may justly deserve punishment for not believing on Christ, I answer, that I find it utterly impossible to conceive that the ignorance of the creature should be the basis of the Divine government; or that it is befitting the Divine character to make it the ground of human obligation. On the principles opposed, viz., that there is a limited sufficiency in the atonement of Christ, it is manifest, that if the fact:, that there are no provisions at the gospel-feast for many, were known–and known by these many–they could Dot be honorably bidden to the supper; far less condemned for not appearing at it.

3. I ground my confidence that the atonement was a general remedy, co-extensive with the evil it was intended to remove, on the consideration, that the provision of such a remedy was, as far as we can judge, befitting the character of God, as the moral governor of the world. There is, I think, considerable reason to apprehend that too many of our evangelical divines partially forget, that Jehovah retains the character and office of a moral governor, even under the present dispensation of mercy. At any rate, the sentiment, if it gains admission into their creeds, does not draw after it its legitimate consequences. They view the gospel too much as a system of pure benevolence, accomplishing its entire purpose by securing the salvation of those whom the decree of election had destined to be rescued from the ruins of the fall. When Adam had sunk into apostasy, and involved in the consequences of his transgression the whole of the human family, Jehovah, in pursuance of that sovereign decree to which we have referred, determined, they imagine, to appoint a Savior specifically and exclusively for them, who should stand in the relation of a substitute and a surety for them; but sustain no relation to that part of the family which was not included within the range of the decree. For the purpose of bringing them to the actual enjoyment of the blessings of salvation, the glad tidings of the Savior’s atonement must be proclaimed to them: and, as they are mingled with the common mass of mankind, and cannot be distinguished from others by any eye but the eye of God, the gospel must be preached generally; its testimony, and promises, and threatenings, must be brought before the view of all men; but then the entire design of this proceeding is merely to bring in the chosen to salvation. No mercy would be offered to others, no gospel would be preached to them, no proffer of salvation through the blood of Christ would be made to them, were it not necessary to secure the intentions of sovereign mercy in reference to the objects of Jehovah’s everlasting love. Now, if I do not call this a radically mistaken view of the nature of the present dispensation, I have no doubt that it is a radically defective one. It loses sight of the important fact, that though the gospel is. the means of conveying distinguishing blessings to many, it is the instrument of moral government to all. According to the statement opposed, it is difficult to see how God can be said to sustain the relation of moral governor to any. To the elect he bears the relation of the sovereign bestower of unmerited and infinite mercy; to the non-elect, rather the relation of executioner, than of judge, or governor. He is presented by it in the attitude of a being who delays, indeed, the infliction of the penalty incurred by the breach of the Adamic dispensation, for the attainment of an important end, but who offers no escape from it; does not set open the door of mercy to them, has no intention but to inflict the full penalty, and merely reserves them to the day of wrath, when the vengeance of a broken law shall be poured out upon their heads. Now, I cannot but regard these statements as conveying as incorrect a representation of the Divine plans and conduct, as can be liven, without a relinquishment of the Scripture doctrine on the subject altogether. It is not true of any, under the gospel dispensation, that they stand in no relation to God but that of criminals, waiting the day of execution, without the possibility of escape. Have we not seen that mercy is offered to all, and that the condemnation of the finally impenitent will rest on their rejection of it? How, then, can we so far libel the Great Eternal, as to suppose that he invites sinners to leave their prison, and will condemn them hereafter for not doing it, if he has not set open the doors to permit their, escape? In consistency with the facts of the case, it is imperative upon us to believe, that after the fall, Jehovah set open the door of mercy, not to some men merely, but to all men; whether he determined to impart to all a disposition to avail themselves of this mercy, is another question. And to open a way of escape to all, it was obviously necessary that the sacrifice, on the ground of which any receive pardon, should be in itself sufficient for the salvation of all. Such a sacrifice was provided; and its provision is highly honorable to the character of Jehovah, if not required by it, as the moral governor of the world. Contemplate for a moment the relations which existed between God and man after the original transgression. The penalty attached to the first covenant had been incurred; because, in the view of the law, and had been committed by all. Now, in our Lectures on Divine sovereignty, we admitted the difficulty which attaches to the conception, that any difference should exist in the conduct of God as a moral governor or judge, in reference to the various individuals who are involved in the same general sentence of condemnation. We admitted that justice did seem to require that all should be condemned, or all acquitted; but that it seemed to forbid that some should suffer, and others be permitted to escape, without the intervention of another dispensation, under which mercy should be accessible to all, so that their final state might be in accordance with the rule of that dispensation. Now, what was the case, according to those views of the nature and the extent of the atonement which have been developed in our previous Lectures? Do they not manifestly imply, that there was no difference in the conduct of God, as a moral governor, in reference to men? He determined to provide a sacrifice of infinite worth, and, therefore, in itself adequate to the salvation of all, and on the ground of that sacrifice to invite all to apply for pardon and eternal life, and to promise that all who complied with the invitation should enjoy the blessing. This was done partly in his character as a Sovereign, manifesting unmerited mercy–but still the same mercy, to all: and partly as a righteous moral governor, grounding, indeed, his requirements in sovereignty; but still making the same requirements from all–and, therefore, as a moral Governor, dealing in the same manner with all. For, as it has been more than once observed, the provision of a Savior, and the promise of mercy through him, was a virtual abrogation of the .original curse. It was equivalent to a universal pardon. It presented spiritual blessings to the acceptance of all the children of men–blessings to be enjoyed in the same manner–by means of repentance, faith, and obedience; and, therefore not more impossible to be obtained by one than by another. Thus the atonement, if in itself adequate to the salvation of the world, lays an adequate basis for that system of moral government which Jehovah is still carrying ona basis on which rest the invitations, threatenings, and promises of the gospel, the instruments of that government; and which will sustain the rectitude of the proceedings of the great day, when all will receive from God, as a moral governor, that joyful or dread reward, which the Scriptures attach to the reception or rejection of the gospel. “The present dispensation,” says Dr. Russell,

is not a mere charter of privileges, but includes also a system of moral government, by which God, in the use of appropriate means, exercises authority over men, as intelligent creatures. In other words, it is not merely a system of benevolence.”

And again, “The atonement of Chris, and the proclamation of mercy to all who believe on him, have laid the foundation of a particular exercise of moral government, while they are the medium of the most exalted displays of sovereign mercy and goodness.” (Adamic and Mosaic Dispensations, pp. 233-236.)

On the other hand, let us contemplate the state of the ease, as it must have existed, had there been any limitation in the sufficiency of the atonement itselfhad Christ so died for some men only, as that his death would have been incompetent to the salvation of all men. In that case there would have been an obvious difference in the conduct of God, as moral governor, in relation to individuals involved in the same condemnation. The sentiment opposed supposes that the original lapse of the species was followed by no new and merciful dispensation,–by no “accepted time,” during which God will hear the supplication of all who implore mercy in the name of his Son,–and, at the expiration of which, will render to all, in his rectoral character, according to their reception or rejection of the salvation which had been exhibited to them; but that, without the intervention of any such dispensation, a dispensation which might afford an opportunity for a difference of final state being awarded according to the rules of moral government,–many are left to suffer the sentence of the law which all have broken, while others, guilty of the same crime, are pardoned.

Though we do not admit human authority in religion, it may be well to remember that the sentiments which I have expressed in reference to the sufficiency of the atonement, have been held by individuals whose praise is in all the churches. I refer to a few, beginning with Calvin himself; for it is his final opinion on this point which is to be regarded as his real opinion. In his Exposition of the holy Scriptures, written subsequently to his Institutes, he says, with reference to Matt. xxvi. 28, “Sub multorum nomine non partem mundi tantum designat, sed totum humanum genus.” Again, Oft Rom. v.l8, Communem omnium gratiam facit, quia omnibns exposita est, non quod ad omnes extendatur re ipsa. Nam etsi passus est Christus pro peccatis totius mundi, atque omnibus indifferenrer, Dei benigriitate offeretur; non tamen omnes apprehendunt.” In his last will, also, drawn up by himself about a month before his death, he refers to the blood of Christ, and a8ds, that it was “effuso pro humani generis peccatis.”

Dr. Owen, also, who at an earlier period of his life espoused the notion that the Redeemer suffered the exact quantum of punishment which the elect must have endured,–an opinion. which necessarily implies that his atonement was not in itself sufficient for the salvation of all,–in more advanced age warmly recommended Polhill’s Treatises on the Divine Will, “the arguments of which,” he says, “are suited to the genius of the age past, wherein accuracy and strictness of reason bear sway.” And yet this treatise ‘argues in the following manner;

“If Christ did in no way die for all men, which way shall the truth of these general promises be made out? ‘Whosoever will, may take of the water of life.’ What, though Christ never bought it for him? ‘Whosoever believes shall be saved.’ What, though there was no lutron, no price paid for him? Surely the gospel knows no water of life, but that which Christ purchased, nor any way of salvation but by a lutron, or price paid. If Christ no way died for all men, how can these promised stand true? All men, if they believe, shall be saved;–saved, but how? Shall they be saved by a lutron or price of .redemption? There was none at all paid for them; the immense value of Christ’s death does not make it a price as to them for whom he died not; or shall they be saved without lutron, or price? God’s unsatisfied justice cannot suffer it, his minatory law cannot bear it, neither doth the gospel know. any such way of salvation; take it either way, the truth of those promises cannot be vindicated, unless we say that Christ died for all men.”

I do not wish to be understood as expressing approbation of the whole of this language. The writer seems to have entertained obscure conceptions in reference to the nature of .the atonement,–the manner in which the death of Christ secured the pardon of sin. I merely quote it as involving the opinion that his sacrifice is in itself sufficient for the whole family of man; which is all for which I think it necessary to contend.

The following statements of the great Charnock are especially worthy of attention.

The wrath of God was so fully appeased by it, (the death of Christ,) his justice so fully satisfied, that there is no bar to a re-admission into his favor, and the enjoyment of the privileges purchased by it, but man’s unbelief. The blood of Christ is a stream of which all men may drink, an ocean wherein all may bathe. If any perished by the biting of the fiery serpent, it was not for want of a remedy in God’s institution, but from willfulness in themselves. The antitype answers to the type, and wants no more a sufficiency to procure a spiritual good, than that to effect the cure of the body. .He is, therefore, called the Savior of the world. When the apostle says, ‘If thou shall .confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe with thy heart, thou shall be saved,’ he speaks to every man that shall hear that sentence. If all the men in the world were united to him by faith, there would not be any more required of Christ for their salvation, than what he hath already acted; for it is a sacrifice of infinite value, and infinite knows no limits. Since it was sufficient to satisfy infinite justice, it is sufficient to .save an infinite number; and the virtue of it in saving one, argues a virtue in it to save all. upon the same conditions. If men, therefore, perish, it is not for want of value, or virtue, or acceptableness in this sacrifice; but for want of answering the terms upon which the enjoyment of the benefits of it is proposed. If a man will shut his eyes against the light of the sun, it argues an obstinacy on the part of the person, not any defect in the sun itself.” (Vide Discourse on the Acceptableness of Christ’s Death.)

I add only the following quotations from the excellent! Scott:–

It seems to be the decided opinion of his Lordship, (Bishop of Lincoln,) that the evangelical clergy, especially such of them as believe the doctrine of personal ejection, hold what is called particular redemption, whereas very few of them adopt it. The author of these remarks, (himself,) urged by local circumstances rather than by choice, above twenty-four years since, avowed his dissent from the doctrine of particular redemption, as held by many professed Calvinists, especially among the Dissenters.”

It is to be regretted that Mr. Scott used the term redemption here. He evidently regarded it as identical with atonement. This is not the case, however. Redemption is the effect of atonement. It is the actual deliverance of its subject from condemnation, sin, and misery, on the ground of the atonement–or the price of redemption paid by the Son of God. Redemption, therefore, must be particular; or, we must admit the unscriptural doctrine of universal salvation. This is, however, only a mistake as to phraseology. That Mr. Scott understood redemption in the sense of atonement, is manifest from the following passage:–

The infinite value and sufficiency of the atonement made by the death of Him who was God and Man in one mysterious person; the way in which the Scripture calls on sinners, without distinction, to believe in Christ; and every circumstance respecting redemption, shows it to be a general benefit, from which none will be excluded, except through unbelief. (Reply, ate., pp. 447, 448.)

II. The second thing to be proved, in reference to the atonement, is, that Jehovah, as a Sovereign, having a right to dispense his favors as he pleases, did not determine to exert that influence which would render the remedy effectual to salvation, save in the ease of the elect. I confess, I want no other basis for the confidence I repose in this statement, than the fact, to which reference has been made, viz., that the remedy is not effectual in the case of all men. Few things can be more certain than that what an Almighty Savior undertakes he must accomplish; in other words, that if Christ died with the intention of rendering his atonement the means of salvation to all men, all men must be saved. There are more ways than one by which we may ascertain the purposes of God; yet, perhaps, a more certain mode of accomplishing this does not exist, than to examine the conduct of God. In our contests with Arminians, we contend that what be does, he previously determined to do; it is, obviously, equally manifest, that what he does not do, he did not previously determine to do. All men are not actually saved by Christ; all were not intended to be thus actually saved by him. If his purpose had been to bring all, by effectual and gracious influence, to the enjoyment of salvation, on the ground of that infinite atonement which was required as a necessary basis for the unlimited invitations of the gospel what could have frustrated his intentions? “His counsel must stand, and he will do at his pleasure.” Let us suppose the case, for the purpose of illustration, (and the ease will suit our purposes in more senses than one), that the whole human family were the subjects of a dangerous malady, for which Jehovah provides a remedya remedy which cannot, in the nature of the ease, possess efficiency to remove the malady in one ease, without being able to remove it in all cases. Its actual efficiency, however, depends upon its being taken; and the certainty of its being taken depends upon the . Divine purpose to remove that dislike to it which would lead to its rejection. Now the question is, must not the number of persons restored to health by this medicine, correspond, ot rather be identical with that from whose minds Jehovah determined to remove that dislike of which we have been speaking? I see not how it can be doubted. Had it been the purpose of Jehovah to render it effectual universally, what could have prevented the perfect restoration to health of every individual of the human family? In harmony with the preceding reasoning, we find it stated in Scripture, that ” Christ laid down his life for the sheep,”–”that he gave his life a ransom for many,”–and “bare the sins of many”–that the sacramental wine is an emblem of that blood which was shed for “the remission of sins unto many.” It would be doing violence to language, to contend that the words “sheep,” and ” many,” are of equivalent import with “all mankind.” Nor does it appear to me necessary to suppose this, in order to support those views of the unlimited sufficiency of the atonement which have been given in preceding Lectures. The expressions, “Christ gave himself for the many,” “the sheep,” &c., denote that specialty of intention of which we are now speaking. He died with the intention of rendering his atonement efficacious to the salvation of many, (by visiting them with that special influence which would lead them to seek salvation, by repentance and faith),–the many, that is, whom the Father had given to him, and to whom he had the power of giving eternal life.

In opposition to this statement, it will be said, that Christ is represented as having “tasted death for every man,” “for the whole world,” &c. I answer,

That, if the objector understands no more by these expressions than that Christ so tasted death for every man, as that every man may be saved on his faith and repentance; or, that Jehovah, in his rectoral character, designed to provide an atonement sufficient in itself for the salvation of the whole world; I most cordially assent to the truth of this statement. But, if he contend that the truth taught by them is, that Christ, when he offered up himself, designed io render his atonement the means of saving the whole world, I answer,

First, That it is not necessary thus to understand the expressions. The terms “all,” “everyone,” &c., are frequently used in the Scriptures, where they must be understood in a limited sense. Thus it is said, Mark i. 37, that when Simon, and they who were with him, had found him, they said unto him, “All men seek for thee.” Again, Col. i. 23; “If ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached unto every creature which was under heaven.” (Vide, also, Mark v. 20; Acts xxii. 15; Rev. xix. 17; Phil. iii. 8; Luke xvi. 16; Acts xxi. 28.) Now, as the signification of these terms is sometimes clearly limited, this may be the case where they are used in reference to the death of Christ.

Secondly, I answer, that it is not probable that such is their meaning. They seem to have been employed in opposition to Jewish notions and prejudices. That nation wished to confine the goodness of Jehovah to themselves; and expected that the mission of the Messiah was intended for their exclusive benefit. It is not so, says John, in effect: “He is the propitiation for our sins,” i.e., the sins of the Jews; “and not for ours only,” he adds, “but for the sins of the whole world,” i.e., of Gentiles, as well as Jews. There is nothing, then, in these statements, properly understood, to support the notion that Christ designed to effect the salvation of all men when “he poured out his soul unto death.”

In addition to the preceding reasoning, it may be stated, that there must have been a specialty of intention on the part of Christ, in reference to the individuals who should receive, through Divine influence, eternal benefit from his sufferings, in order to preserve a coincidence and harmony in the counsels and ways of God. It was not the design of God, as we have seen, to save the whole of the human race; but, permitting the sentence of a violated law to overtake some, to rescue others upon whom his sovereign choice rested, for reasons of which we can form no adequate conception, from that abyss of wretchedness to which sin had reduced them. Can it be conceived, then, for a moment, that the intention of Christ, in reference to those who should receive eternal benefit from his sufferings, extended beyond these individuals? Must not the special purpose of Christ, in his death, coincide with the decree of election? However unlimited might be the efficacy of the medicine in itself, yet, since it was the determination of the Father to dispose the hearts of some only to receive and take it, must we not suppose that they constitute the “sheep” of which the Savior speaks–the” many sons,” referred to by the apostle,–and that our Lord had the special intention of bringing them to the enjoyment of salvation, when “he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost?” I do not see, for my part, how it can be denied.

The views which I have endeavored to lay before the reader, in reference to the unlimited sufficiency of the atonement on the one hand, and a specialty of intention in relation to its application on the other, seem to me to exhibit the true reconciling principle between apparently opposing Scripture statements; and to constitute the middle and safe course between the opposite and dangerous extremes of Arminianism on the one hand, and Ultra-Calvinism on the other. The former rejects any specialty of intention in reference to the application of the atonement, both on the part of the Father and the Son; and, rejecting this notion, the system supplies us with no grounds of confidence that the Savior may not have shed his blood in vain. It is right in stating that it rendered the salvation of all men possible. It is wrong in disregarding those previous engagements of the Father and the Son, and that gracious design on the part of the Son–arising out of them-to lead certain individuals, by special grace, to implore the mercy that is offered freely to all,. (without which no man can obtain it), and by which the salvation of some men is rendered certain.

The latter system, Ultra-Calvinism, seems to me to consider this specialty of intention, in reference to the application Of the atonement, as entering into the very nature of atonement, so that there can be no value, no sufficiency, in the atonement, beyond its efficiency. To taste death for every man, or for all men, so necessarily means, in the apprehension of the advocates of this system, to die instead of all men, or with the design of saving all men, that they feel themselves absolutely compelled to limit the application of the general terms, to escape the unscriptural conclusion that all men must be saved. They forget the important distinction which exists between the design of God as a Sovereign, and a moral governor;–that though, in the latter character, he must have designed to provide a sacrifice so infinite in its value as to render it just to himself, and safe to his government, to pardon the sins of all men for the sake of it, and so to constitute a basis on which a universal proclamation of mercy might be made to men;–yet. that he may not have intended, as a Sovereign, to bestow a disposition upon all to implore the mercy which as a ruler he exhibits to all They forget that, in the sense of opening a way fur the salvation of all, Christ did die for all men, (whether that be the scriptural meaning of the expressions to which I now refer is another question), or, rather, their system forbids the supposition that the door of mercy was set open to all men by the death of Christ. And, therefore, if they preach the Gospel generally, it is merely on the principles stated formerly-that the-elect are mingled with the mass of mankind, and so cannot be addressed any other way. On their part there is no bone fide proffer of mercy to any, but to those to whose salvation they conceive God designs to render it effectual; nor is there any such, as they conceive, on the part of God himself. The non-elect are, in no sense, in a state of probation. Their final condition is not suspended upon their conduct in relation to the testimony of God concerning his Son. They were brought under condemnation by the breach of the law given to Adam;–no way of escape is set open to them; and yet, at the great day, they will be condemned for not resting’ on that atonement which wall not in itself sufficient to secure their salvation!

Let us, for a moment, view the system we have been advocating, in the light of contrast with the notions of Ultra-Calvinism. Contemplating the whole human family as condemned, Jehovah did not determine to inflict punishment on some, and to pardon others, but to provide a sacrifice of infinite worth, by which every obstacle to the bestowment of mercy might be removed; and then, as a moral governor, or judge, to offer pardon to all who might choose to accept it, in the only manner in which it could be bestowed. Acting in harmony with this intention, he deals with men as the subjects of his moral government. By the threatenings and promises of the Gospel he brings those motives to bear upon men, which are the instruments of moral government. All men may be saved by Christ who desire to be saved; but all do not desire to be saved; and, according to our previous statements, a disposition to embrace that mercy which is offered to all, is not necessary to moral government, or to render an individual an accountable agent. Jehovah, however, while, as a moral governor, he exhibits mercy to all, as a Sovereign, imparts, in the case of many, a disposition to embrace it, and thus secures their salvation. “The others he leaves to their own free agency.” There is mercy for them if they choose to go and ask for it. He does not determine that they shall not ask it; but he permits them to receive or reject it, according to the determination of their own minds. With reference to those whose wills he influences by sovereign goodness to receive it, he previously determined so to do. They are the elect,–”the many sons” whom the Father gave the Son, and whose salvation the latter intended to secure when he hung upon the cross. I do not say there are no difficulties in these statements, but they resolve themselves into the point contested between the Arminians and Calvinists, whether, when God offers blessings to men, under certain conditions if you will, he is obliged to impart a disposition to seek and enjoy them,–a difficulty which the Arminian scheme leaves completely unsolved, since common grace does not really impart a disposition to repent and believe.

George Payne, Lectures on Divine Sovereignty, Election, the Atonement, Justification, and Regeneration (London: James Dinnis, 62, Paternoster Row, 1838), 206-228. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; footnote content and value modernized; and underlining mine.]


1It is possible that the practice of attaching too literal a signification to such words as head, surety, legal representative, &c., in their application to Christ, has also contributed to sustain this restricted view of the sufficiency of the atonement. If the Savior were not the surety, or legal representative, of the non-elect, how can there be, some are ready to say, sufficient efficacy in his blood to save them, allowing its value to be as great as yon please? Now, I admit that, if the relation sustained by Christ to his people were absolutely identical with that which a human legal representative sustains to those whom he represents, the objection would be an insuperable one. But I deny this. I maintain that it is analogous merely, not identical. The consequences of the work of Christ are, to believers, as if Christ were their legal representative; and, therefore, he may be called so; the analogy is rather in the consequences than in the relation itself. (Vide Lectures on Justification.) But the point which I particularly wish those who urge this objection to observe now, is, that, if they give up “the measure and weight system,” as Dr. Wardlaw expressively calls it, they must with it, also, surrender their notions, that the relation of Christ to his people, identifies itself with that of a legal representative among men. Christ could not, it is manifest, be a literal surety, or legal representative, without enduring the same punishment–the same in kind and degree–which the elect must have borne. Christ was, in a certain sense, the representative of the world; i.e., in as far as though, without his death, all must have perished, now all may be saved. He is more fully the representative of believers, because the consequences of his work will certainly be enjoyed by them.

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